Galaxies are always in motion relative to the Milky Way. My question is, which galaxy is receding the fastest from our viewpoint?

What is the theorised mechanism that causes this?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ How are you claiming gravity as the cause of the expansion of the universe when almost nothing is known about dark energy? Its not even known if dark energy is a real thing, a result of a theory of gravity which we have not yet discovered (just as general relativity helped explain the orbit of mercury over newtonian gravity), or even just the result of our patch of the universe being situated in an unlikely but nevertheless possible gigantic void which would cause it to expand in all directions because of the gravitational pull of objects we can't yet detect. $\endgroup$
    – user2507
    Commented Sep 30, 2014 at 21:30
  • $\begingroup$ There are a lot of unknowns about dark energy. However, typically, it is included into Einstein's field equations through the addition of a term called "the cosmological constant". If it is in fact supposed to be included in GR in this particular way (which it is absolutely not clear that it is supposed to be), then the interpretation is that it must have a negative equation of state. That's all I was saying below. Secondly, we have mapped out the large scale universe out to a fair distance - we do not live at the center of a void (unless the size of the void is that of the entire universe). $\endgroup$
    – astromax
    Commented Oct 11, 2014 at 12:53

2 Answers 2


This question may be a duplicate to: On what scale does the universe expand?

The mechanism for the expansion of the universe is gravity, manifested through what's known as Dark Energy. Dark Energy is a component to the universe which today, composes 68.3% of the energy density of the universe. You may be confused as to how gravity could be responsible for the expansion of the universe, but the equation of state of DE,

w = pressure/density

is negative (w_DE = -1), which means that it has anti-gravitational properties. Additionally, its density remains constant as the coordinates of the universe change, which is the reason why it dominates later on in the universe's history (while all other components, matter (dark or otherwise) and radiation/relativistic matter, become diluted with the expansion of the universe).

To answer your question, because the expansion of the universe is happening at all points in space, it looks like the "center" of expansion is at every point in space (see: Space expansion in layman terms), the galaxies furthest away (highest redshift), are the ones moving quickest away from the Milky Way Galaxy.

  • $\begingroup$ Is there a specific galaxy receding the fastest? $\endgroup$
    – user8
    Commented Oct 6, 2013 at 21:43
  • $\begingroup$ Whatever the furthest one discovered so far - that's the one receding the fastest. Until we discover a further one. So the question to ask is "what is the furthest galaxy discovered" $\endgroup$
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Oct 6, 2013 at 22:04
  • $\begingroup$ @RoryAlsop yes, something like that $\endgroup$
    – user8
    Commented Oct 6, 2013 at 22:20
  • $\begingroup$ Well in that case: I think it's MACS0647-JD $\endgroup$
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Oct 6, 2013 at 22:24
  • $\begingroup$ space.com/18502-farthest-galaxy-discovery-hubble-photos.html $\endgroup$
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Oct 6, 2013 at 22:28

The galaxy that is receding away from us fastest is whichever galaxy currently holds the record for the highest measured redshift.

This galaxy obviously changes as more and more discoveries are made. This web page that describes redshift, may keep an up-to-date record of this. It lists UDFy-38135539, discovered in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, as a previous record holder (see below), with a spectroscopically confirmed redshift of $z=8.5549 \pm 0.0002$. That is, lines in the spectrum appear at wavelengths that are a factor of $(1+z)=9.55$ times longer (redder). But there is apparent controversy over the claimed detection of spectral features in this galaxy. (e.g. Bunker et al. 2013).

Bramnmer et al. (2013) report the "tentative detection" of a possible Lyman alpha emission line at $z=12.12$ for UDFj-39546284, another ultra deep field galaxy.

Either way it seems only a matter of time before $z>9$ galaxies are confirmed, since there are many candidates that have so far been selected only by virtue of their peculiar colours (Lyman break galaxies at near infrared wavelengths, including MACS0647-JD mentioned in comments to other posts). e.g. Bouwens et al. (2014).

Update Oesch et al. (2016) report HST grism spectroscopy of a high redshift galaxy candidate, GN-z11, identified in the CANDELS/GOODS survey. They confirm the presence of a Lyman break indicating a spectroscopic redshift of 11.1. This appears to be the current record holder.

The reasons that these galaxies are receding from us is simply the expansion of the universe. Galaxies that are further away appear to recede faster. The galaxies discussed above must be $>13$ billion light years away according to the current "concordance" cosmological model.

Translating a redshift to a recession velocity requires knowledge of the cosmological parameters. Fig.2 of Davis & Lineweaver (2004) shows the relationship. For our current best estimates of cosmological parameters, a redshift of 11 corresponds to a recession velocity of 2.3c. That is, this galaxy is currently receding from us at 2.3 times the speed of light.

  • $\begingroup$ How fast, in km/sec, are these galaxies with redshifts around 9 receding? $\endgroup$
    – Natsfan
    Commented Jun 18, 2017 at 14:49
  • $\begingroup$ @john see new last paragraph. $\endgroup$
    – ProfRob
    Commented Jun 18, 2017 at 23:28
  • $\begingroup$ @john : 2.3c is roughly 690,000 km/sec. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 6:58

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